Thursday, September 20, 2007

They've Got the Steamroller Blues; They Want To Roll All Over You. Don't Let 'Em.

Here is the text of the Cornyn Amendment, which passed the Senate today by a huge margin: 72-25:

To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.

The resolution had lots of support from Democrats in Congress -- which is not exactly a shock; but there were some surprises as to which Democrats voted for or against:
A couple of the more interesting votes: Jim Webb, who just yesterday was a Netroots hero, voted for it, even though the last thing he needs as a military guy is cover on something like this.

Meanwhile, Hillary -- who's been under assault by Rudy for refusing to condemn MoveOn but who's also locked in a tough Dem primary -- stood her ground and voted No.

The official Roll Call Vote is here.

OpenLeft breaks down the Democratic vote:
Dems who voted to condemn a specific act of political speech, and stab their allies in the back:
Baucus (D-MT), Bayh (D-IN), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Conrad (D-ND), Dorgan (D-ND), Feinstein (D-CA), Johnson (D-SD), Klobuchar (D-MN), Kohl (D-WI), Landrieu (D-LA), Leahy (D-VT), Lincoln (D-AR), McCaskill (D-MO), Mikulski (D-MD), Nelson (D-FL), Nelson (D-NE), Pryor (D-AR), Salazar (D-CO), Tester (D-MT), Webb (D-VA)

Dems who voted nay:
Akaka (D-HI) Bingaman (D-NM), Boxer (D-CA), Brown (D-OH), Byrd (D-WV), Clinton (D-NY), Dodd (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Feingold (D-WI), Harkin (D-IA), Inouye (D-HI), Kennedy (D-MA), Kerry (D-MA), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Levin (D-MI), Menendez (D-NJ), Murray (D-WA), Reed (D-RI), Reid (D-NV), Rockefeller (D-WV), Sanders (I-VT), Schumer (D-NY), Stabenow (D-MI), Whitehouse (D-RI), Wyden (D-OR)

Democrats who didn't vote:
Biden (D-DE), Cantwell (D-WA), Obama (D-IL)

Clinton and Obama seem to have gotten their poles reversed: the senator who refused to say she regretted her support for the invasion of Iraq voted against condemning MoveOn for saying Gen. Petraeus betrayed Americans' trust; the senator who insists that he would have opposed the invasion had he been in the Senate in 2002 voted for the Boxer Amendment (which declared the unacceptability of criticizing any member of the military, not just Petraeus) earlier in the day, but declined to take a position on the Cornyn Amendment.

That may seem odd at first (that Obama would vote yes on one but avoid voting at all on the other), but Greg Sargent explains that the second vote involved much more political risk:
Barack Obama missed the politically dicey vote today on whether to condemn MoveOn for its ad blasting General Petraeus, according to the vote's roll call.

At the same time, however, Obama was indeed present for the vote this morning that came just moments before the MoveOn one. He voted for the Boxer measure condemning the attack on Petraeus and all other members of the military.

The vote he missed on MoveOn, of course, was the far more difficult one politically -- voting for it could make life complicated in the Dem primary by alienating the powerful group and its supporters, while voting against it could conceivably be used against him in a general election. Meanwhile, the vote for the Boxer measure is explainable, since it's a condemnation of all political attacks on military figures. Of course, there could perfectly well be a genuine scheduling explanation, too.

Taylor Marsh asks, "Can we finally dispense with the utter nonsense that Barack Obama would have stood up against the Iraq war if he had been in the Senate at the time of the 2002 vote?
I've been saying this for over a year. Mr. Obama gets credit for his speech before the war when he wasn't in the Senate. But there is no evidence whatsoever that he would have voted against the force resolution. His calculation to vote for Boxer's amendment today, then skip out on the Cornyn vote speaks volumes. Will anyone call him out on it?

And Clinton? How to explain her atypical willingness to stand up to the Republicans, and on an issue she has been hawkish on in the past? Jane Hamsher thinks it's personal experience: "She’s been on the receiving end of mock right wing outrage before, she knows how it works and she didn’t get played by the typical GOP charade that even THEY aren’t sincere about."

The right, of course, is incensed that any Democrats at all voted no on Cornyn. Those who did, apparently, are expected to support and agree with everything Petraeus does or says, because they confirmed his appointment:
It's a particularly sad commentary on the Democratic Party that they cannot bring themselves to support the very commander they sent to lead American troops in battle by a unanimous vote. It's not a case of a few fringe politicians like Bernie Sanders or Barbara Boxer, either. The Majority Leader, Harry Reid, and his chief deputy, Dick Durbin, refused to condemn the smear on Petraeus' honor. Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd, both of whom want to become Commander in Chief over the military, chose to endorse MoveOn's smear campaign against a man who has dedicated his life to defending this nation and serving presidents in a nonpartisan manner.

MoveOn has the right to free speech. Congress has the responsibility to defend the honor of the man they unanimously endorsed for the difficult task of bringing security to Iraq. Almost half of the Democratic caucus would rather participate in a smear campaign against the commander than stand up to MoveOn. It's a pathetic, embarrassing, and ultimately revealing moment.

It's bizarre: Because Congress confirmed Petraeus's nomination, that means that the man is beyond criticism or accountability, in perpetuity. Would it work this way in the business world? Is Hewlett-Packard, or Exxon-Mobil, or General Electric obligated to support and accept everything that a senior manager does, without comment or criticism, because he was hired, or promoted, in the first place?

That's what all of this is truly about. Underneath all the nonsense about "personal attacks on the honor and integrity" of Gen. Petraeus or of the troops in Iraq or of the military; underneath the self-righteous bluster about "defend[ing] the honor of the man [Congress] unanimously endorsed for the difficult task of bringing security to Iraq," is the totalitarian notion that certain people and certain institutions are sacrosanct, are above criticism; that the constitutionally mandated Senate confirmation process is equivalent to coronation.

That notion needs to be challenged, at every opportunity, and exposed for the anti-democratic drivel that it is. Jane Hamsher does just that:
Bush put Petraeus up there just like he did Colin Powell before him, hoping that he could hide behind a uniform he was never willing to wear himself and claim that anyone who wasn’t supporting his pet project was being “anti-military.” It doesn’t matter who it was or what they said, ANYONE who questioned the word of A Man Called Petraeus was going to be pilloried for it. Nothing less than the complete silence of a domesticated animal would have satisfied them.

And that’s what this vote regarding MoveOn means, make no mistake about it. It’s not just MoveOn that is having their wrists slapped, it’s all of us. All of us who stood together and had the temerity to fight their precious comrade in comity, Joe Lieberman. Those of us who want to push them into doing something on Iraq, which they really don’t want to do. It is now the “Sense of the Senate” that the “uncivil” left are not entitled to free speech, especially if we’re trying to exercise it to make their lives difficult.

MoveOn said what needed to be said, that the emperor has no clothes. Just like he didn’t in 2002 when Bush hid behind Colin Powell and the country accepted his word and his credibility and allowed this godforsaken war to start in the first place. If anybody thought that anyone was going to lift anything more than a symbolic finger to end it ought to be disabusing themselves of that notion right now. Not only are the Democrats not going to criticize the President’s brilliant war stratagem, they’re going to come together in a Terry Schaivo moment and tell anyone who does to just shut the hell up.

Here are some others saying what needs to be said.

Taylor Marsh:
The charade perpetrated this morning by senate Republicans was high hypocrisy. They swiftboat veterans with such ease and grace when soldiers dare to buck Republican talking points, but when General Petraeus is challenged on giving cover for Mr. Bush they balk.
"It is a sad day in the Senate when we spend hours debating an ad while our young people are dying in Iraq. Now that the Senate has twice voted on this ad, it is time to move on and vote to end the war." - Chris Dodd

This country and its citizenry need to decide if the military is beyond challenge. If generals and other giving cover for a failed war policy should be given a pass. If that's your view then you're not interested in preserving our democratic republic.

Maybe you hated the ad; or maybe you loved it. But one thing that cannot be denied is that it kicked off a dialogue that unmasked the duplicitous nature of what lies at the foundation of the Republican party: their craven passion to use the military for their own end even if it means taking U.S. foreign policy and our soldiers down with them.

It may take another generation of leaders in the Democratic party to get what was happening today. That Bush and the Republicans unmasked their own shallowness, and Democrats couldn't smell what was happening and fight back together is disappointing in the extreme. There is only one reason Republicans succeeded passing their craven legislation. It's because so many Democrats didn't understand what was at stake. That the wingnut righteousness was nothing more than political craveness to escalate a fight that they knew would have Democrats running, because our party doesn't have the stones to stand up when Republicans try to divide and conquer. This charade today was not any more about General Petraeus than the Iraq war was about WMDs. Democrats should have sensed that from the start, because if they can attack one group today, then tomorrow they'll come for another.

Chris Bowers suggested, earlier in the day before the vote began, that if the Senate planned to censure political speech critical of the war, it should censure all political speech critical of the war:
Since the Senate seems poised to vote on a Sense of the Senate resolution condemning political speech against the war and General Petraeus, at the very least the Senate should be comprehensive about it. Before the vote takes place, someone should offer an amendment to the resolution, condemning all of the following:
  • Condemn Senator Hagel, who said the following about Petraeus's testimony:

  • [A] dirty trick on the American people when you send a military man out there to basically do a political sell-job...It's not only a dirty trick, but it's dishonest, it's hypocritical, it's dangerous and irresponsible.

  • Condemn protests against the war, especially those that took place last weekend. Surely, Americans freely assembling to protest the war hurts the troops, and I bet that more than one of the protesters were members.
  • Condemn the press for conducting polls showing that more people think Petraeus was not being honest in his testimony than think he was being honest. Surely, they are also calling Petraeus a traitor, by suggesting that he would lie. News outlets in question include CNN and Fox News.
  • Condemn those Americans who voted against members of Congress who are in favor of the war back in 2006. I know that is over forty million people, but hey, if they are going to send a message against the troops, then the Senate should send a message against them.
  • Condemn the United Church of Christ for organizing against the war. Once again, I bet that some members are also in the United Church of Christ.
  • Condemn General Petraeus's superior, CentCom Chief Admiral William Fallon for insulting Petraeus, and for daring to actually be Petraeus's superior officer:
Fallon told Petraeus [in March] that he considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickensh*t" and added, "I hate people like that", the sources say. That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior.

  • Condemn every woman who General Petraeus found attractive in high school for not going out on a date with him.

  • Democrats should offer such an amendment to any condemnation of political speech in the Senate. And maybe, while they are at it, they should throw in a condemnation of Edward Murrow for talking about Senat[or] McCarthy on television in a negative light. I mean, if the Senate has decided that there is time to be spent condemning political speech and no time to actually hold extended debate on things like the Webb amendment, then they should at least be thorough. After all, talking negatively about the Iraq war, and especially talking negatively about General Petraeus, should probably be illegal, but if condemning is the best we can do, then so be it.

    Update: It appears that Senator Boxer is actually going to introduce a resolution doing almost exactly what I suggested here. Go Senator Boxer!

    Kyle Moore wonders why Congress wonders that only 11% of Americans think they are good for anything at all.

    Down With Tyranny! is proud to be a MoveOn Democrat:
    Even though MoveOn stole the name I invented for Petraeus, I'm proud to call myself a MoveOn Democrat. Move On is an action-oriented grassroots group that would be the home of people like Ben Franklin, Patrick Henry, John Jay, Thomas Paine, John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Ethan Allen if this were the middle 1700's. I guarantee you that John Cornyn, Miss McConnell, George Bush, Rudy Giuliani, Frederick of Hollywood, Jack Abramoff, Flip Flop Mitt, and virtually the entire Republican Party of 2007 would be proud Tories and among the third of American colonists supporting the British monarchy and opposing the American Revolution.

    MoveOn has put up a petition for everyone who refuses to shut up. Here it is, courtesy of Jane Hamsher.

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